Refreshingly humble and lacking in pretension, it’s no surprise that Josh Brolin has been described as “the realest guy in Hollywood.” The eldest son of Emmy-winning actor James Brolin and the late wildlife activist Jane Cameron Agee, Josh appeared destined for a successful acting career from a young age (he got his first starring role as a teen in the 1985 cult classic The Goonies). However, even though he’s played the most iconic comic book baddie in the grandest comic book movie of all time, for most of Brolin’s life, being a bonafide movie star was anything but ensured.
Here are a few other things you might not have known about him.
10. It Took a Long Time For His Movie Career to Take Off
The 2010s were easily the most prolific decade of Josh Brolin’s career, with prominent roles in everything from Oscar-nominated dramas (True Grit, Inherent Vice) to some of the biggest comic book movies ever made (Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame). But even though Brolin has been acting since he was in high school, his movie career didn’t gain steam until well into his adult years.
Brolin spent much of the ’90s and early 2000s mired in mediocre film roles — including the 1999 box office flop The Mod Squad — and unemployment: “For 22 years, the phone never rang,” he admits. It wasn’t until 2007 that things finally started to turn the corner for Brolin, thanks to landing roles in Grindhouse and the Coen Brothers’ Best Picture winner No Country For Old Men.
9. Auto Racing Enthusiast
When he’s not busy playing a genocidal purple titan in the highest-grossing movie of all time, Brolin likes to unwind with his favorite hobbies: surfing and auto racing. When it comes to racing cars, in particular, Brolin is more than a casual enthusiast. In 2000, the actor put up a dominant performance in the 24th Annual Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race in Long Beach, California, on the way to a first-place finish.
While impressive, it doesn’t quite measure up to what his father James Brolin accomplished 22 years earlier. In 1978, the elder Brolin was invited to participate in the 24 Hours of Nurburgring (arguably the hardest auto race in the world), and his team emerged victorious. Clearly, the need for speed runs deep in the Brolin family!
8. He Dabbled in Petty Crime as a Teen
As the eldest son of a movie star, Josh Brolin had a privileged upbringing. Unfortunately, the young Brolin got involved with a rough crowd, forming a gang with his surf buddies called the Cito Rats. According to Brolin, the Rats weren’t a gang, but they weren’t exactly saints either. Brolin admits to stealing cars to pay for drugs, including heroin, which ended up taking many of his friends’ lives.
“I tried heroin,” Brolin revealed in a 2014 Guardian interview. “I mean, I never got into it, and I never died from it, which is a good thing. I’ve had 19 friends who died. Most of those guys I grew up with, they’re all dead now.” Thankfully, Brolin’s drug-fueled misadventures are long behind him, as the actor claims imagination has replaced his need to experience dangerous “adventures” like heroin.
7. The Most Wide-Ranging Comic Book Actor Ever?
Summer 2018 was dubbed “the Summer of Brolin” in some circles, as the actor starred in two competing Marvel movies, as well as the action-thriller Sicario: Day of the Soldado). While seeing Brolin play two different Marvel characters just weeks apart was a pretty big deal, Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2 only scratch the surface of the actor’s comic book filmography. Brolin holds the unique distinction of appearing in five different film franchises based on five different comic book publications.
In addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Avengers) and X-Men film franchise (Deadpool 2), Brolin has starred in Men in Black 3 (a Malibu/Marvel Comics franchise), Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Dark Horse Comics) and Jonah Hex (DC Comics). Things might get a bit weird now that Deadpool is part of the MCU but considering we’re unlikely to see much more of Thanos following the events of Avengers: Endgame, we’re sure most fans will be able to look past the fact Brolin plays two different characters in the same film franchise.
6. He’s an Avid Day Trader
Although he didn’t become a sought-after actor until his late 30s, Brolin has always managed to make a living from acting. However, he also supplemented his income with a different passion: playing the stock market. Brolin briefly quit acting in his early 20s to trade stocks instead, and he was pretty good at it! He even co-founded his own website — Marketprobability.com — which provided users with a 25-year breakdown of market trends. While the site is now defunct, at its height, Brolin claims the online business earned him more money than his movies!
5. Barbra Streisand is his Stepmom
Unless you keep a close eye on the personal lives of celebrities (hey, lots of people do!), you may be surprised to learn that singer/actor Barbra Streisand is his stepmother. Brolin’s parents divorced in 1984, and his mother Jane died in a car crash in 1995, one day after Josh’s 27th birthday. That same year, Josh’s father James divorced his second wife Jan Smithers, and the following year, met Streisand through a friend. The two married on July 1, 1998. The pair credit separate bank accounts and a healthy dose of counselling for keeping them together for more than 20 years.
4. Only Recently Became Interested in Action Roles
With a healthy mix of roles in critically-acclaimed dramas and crowd-pleasing blockbusters, Josh Brolin has firmly entrenched himself as an actor who’s comfortable wearing different hats. However, even when he was struggling to make a name for himself in Hollywood, Brolin admits he turned down some roles that would have made things easier for him. For instance, Brolin turned down a starring role in Terminator Salvation (the part would eventually go to Sam Worthington) because he wasn’t interested.
“It’s just not what I was into at that moment,” said Brolin in 2018. “I was really enjoying the types of movies that I was doing.” It was only after what Brolin refers to as a “paradigm shift” that happened in the industry — partly brought on by the rise in quality comic book movies — that he reconsidered his stance. Now, he fully embraces tentpole projects, which in his mind have become much more intriguing. “I’m just late in the game, man.”
3. Punk Rocker
Josh Brolin is a big fan of ’80s punk rock; in fact, he was a founding member of a pretty big L.A. band from the era. In a New York Times interview, Brolin acknowledged his punk-rock past, revealing that he played drums in the band Rich Kids on LSD. However, he never played on any of the band’s albums. In a later interview, Brolin clarified his original statement, explaining that he was “part of the garage band that first started playing,” and that the band would go onto become Rich Kids on LSD.
In a 2015 Yahoo! interview, Brolin specifically recalls playing shows with the band at Godzilla’s, an L.A. club and punk epicenter in those days. “We were in Santa Barbara at the time, we’d sneak out of the house every third night or whatever, and go down to Godzilla’s,” said Brolin. “It was pre-grunge, but it was real punk at the time.”
2. Almost Died Outside a McDonald’s
Many celebrities would never confess to setting foot in a McDonald’s restaurant, but Josh Brolin is the type who freely admits his burger cravings nearly got him killed. While on a surfing trip in Costa Rica in 2013, Brolin and his now-wife, Kathryn, ventured out for a midnight Big Mac while staying in a dangerous part of San José. “I was still drinking, and we’d tied one on,” said Brolin in a 2018 interview with Men’s Journal. “There was a McDonald’s around the corner. I guess the guys clocked us the minute we left the hotel.”
The couple was approached by a man who asked Brolin for a cigarette and money. After replying that he had neither, the man stabbed Brolin in the stomach. Another man appeared, and Brolin told Kathryn to run, but fortunately, the criminals ran off after a passerby noticed and began screaming. The knife wound wasn’t severe — Brolin was on the set of Inherent Vice ten days later — but very easily could have been. According to Brolin, the knife “miraculously didn’t hit any vitals. The doctor said … if he’d stabbed me an inch below, I wouldn’t have survived.”
1. Happy He Got Turned Down for Batman
Before landing the roles of Thanos and Cable, Brolin was in talks to play none other than the Dark Knight. Specifically, Brolin was being eyed to play the Caped Crusader in Zack Snyder’s 2016 blockbuster Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Ultimately, Snyder decided Brolin wasn’t who he was looking for and cast Ben Affleck instead. But rather than being dismayed at missing out on a role as significant as Batman, Brolin says he’s ultimately happy it didn’t work out.
“I’m really glad it didn’t happen,” the actor told CBM. “I haven’t thought twice about it.” Considering Brolin likely wouldn’t have been able to play Cable in Deadpool 2 — not to mention having to juggle his time playing Thanos — understandably, Brolin is more relieved than disappointed that he missed out on appearing in the DC Extended Universe.